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Saturday, 30 July 2011

William Powell Frith R.A.

Today's post, 30th July 2011, is dedicated to one of the most reputable paintings of the 19th century which, unsurprisingly, was reproduced by several jigsaw puzzle manufacturers.

Victorians were attracted to railway stations, rather peculiarly finding them exciting and glamorous places. The Railway Station (Paddington) was painted by Yorkshireman, William Powell Frith R.A. in 1862, and attracted enormous interest. Many social gatherings of mixed classes are integrated into the painting with some interpretation open to the eyes and minds of the beholders. The painting includes people going on holiday, a mother sending off her two sons to school, a criminal being arrested by policemen and a bride and groom leaving for their honeymoon. It is thought that Frith included himself, his wife and his mistress in the painting. He also included the man who commissioned the painting for £4,500, Louis Victor Flatlow, but not as the engine driver as Flatlow had wished. He is the person standing beside the locomotive.

Frith received a lot of help with the painting. For authenticity he copied photographs of the station and of an 'Iron Duke' class 4-2-2 locomotive by photographer Samuel Fry. The structural detail in the painting is thought to be have done by the architectural draughtsman, William Scott Morton. Louis Flatlow later sold on the reproduction rights to the painting for £16,000, a profitable venture.

The jigsaw (cardboard) shown in the photographs, in full and cameo form, is the Falcon 'Panorama' (102 x 35cm) puzzle of 1000 pieces, simply titled The Railway Station. Chad Valley, Optimago and Wentworth also reproduced the painting as wooden jigsaws.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The 'Golden Arrow'

The 'Golden Arrow' luxury service from Victoria to Dover is featured in today's post 25th July 2011. The express began operating c1929 starting as an all-Pullman train hauled by a 4-6-0 'Lord Nelson' class locomotive or, occasionally, by a 'King Arthur' class 4-6-0. On arrival at Dover passengers were treated to a first class English Channel crossing to Calais on a specially built ferry, Canterbury, owned by the Southern Railway (SR). At Calais passengers boarded an equally prestigious French train, the 'Fleche d'Or',  for the journey to Paris. By the late 1930's, however, the 'Golden Arrow' service included ordinary first and second class carriages in its formation as the interest in luxury, all Pullman travel, declined.  The service was terminated at the outbreak of war in 1939, but was re-introduced in 1946 when a special headboard (until 1961) was added to the front of the locomotive. This headboard was truly inspirational with a large golden arrow piercing a green circle, the latter embracing the famous words, also in gold.  British and French flags, fixed to the front of the locomotive, and a  horizontal Golden Arrow fixed to each side of the locomotive, added even more flair.
The three puzzles I have chosen are all small examples reflecting the popularity of the train as a subject for children's puzzles.

Picture number one features a 40-piece wooden puzzle by Philmar. Heading the famous service is 'West Country' class 4-6-2, No.34092 City of Wells, also the title of the puzzle. The red headboard and missing flags are a mystery. The locomotive is one of Oliver Bulleid's smaller 'Pacifics'. The artist is T.E. North and the locomotive is pictured leaving a main line station ( London Victoria or Dover?)

The second picture shows a 45-piece puzzle from Mighty Midgets, simply titled Golden Arrow. In the picture the luxury train is hauled by one of Bulleid's larger 'Pacifics' No.21C1 Channel Packet, the prototype of the 'Merchant Navy' class of locomotives.  The train is powering through a station, beneath a girder bridge, on the furthermost track. A lone porter struggles with a luggage trolley on the platform adjacent to the nearside track. The artist is T.E North.

Picture number three is of a 60-piece wooden puzzle, Golden Arrow, from Victory. An unidentified Bullied 'Merchant Navy' class 'Pacific' is heading the Pullman express away from Dover with a ship (the 'Canterbury' ferry?) as a backdrop. T.E North is again the artist (he must be one the most patronised artists of all time, in jigsaw production). Note that in the last two puzzles, North has painted the French tricolor the wrong way round - the blue should be against the flagpole.

On the website Dave Peel (an authority on locomotive headboards) indicates that the colour of the Golden Arrow circle was commonly green, but may also have been blue, probably black and possibly red, though definitive colour evidence is hard to come by.

Monday, 18 July 2011

LNER/BR Expresses

Tower Press (TP) was a big player in the jigsaw market from the late 1930's until entering receivership in 1969. The company operated under its own name but also many brand names such as Mercury, Outward Bound and Popular. My post today, 18th July 2011 includes three puzzles issued under TP brand names.

Picture number one shows a puzzle titled Northbound Express, made by Tower Press under the Popular brand name. This 320-piece puzzle shows a Peppercorn class 'A2' locomotive heading out of Kings Cross for Glasgow. The coaches are all Pullman examples, the norm for 'The Queen of Scots' express. The locomotive is No. 60535 Hornets Beauty, and the artist George Heiron.

North Bound Express is a 400-piece puzzle retailed under the Family Favourite (a Tower Press brand?) name. The puzzle is reproduced from a painting by T. E. North and features the Gresley class 'A1' prototype Great Northern after it had been rebuilt in 1945 by Edward Thompson as the only 'A2/2'. Photo number two shows this puzzle displaying a scene from post British Railways (1948) days as the locomotive is portrayed with her BR number, livery and lettering. The very eyecatching background is purely industrial comprising a power station with huge cooling towers and chimneys. Oddly, the same puzzle was also issued under the Good Companion name (another Tower Press brand?) titled Southward Bound.

The Express Flashes By is a 400-piece puzzle by Tower Press but retailed under the Outward Bound brand name. The artwork by T. E. North is reproduced in fine style and features a Peppercorn class 'A1' No.60130 Kestrel (BR number) heading a Pullman train out of York. The Minster dominates the horizon. Gresley class 'A4' No.4482 Golden Eagle (LNER number) is stationery on an adjacent line. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Artist Barry Freeman

Today's post comprises two photographs of jigsaws reproducing the excellent artwork of railway specialist, Barry J. Freeman. In my collection of 400 steam railway puzzles approximately fifty originate from paintings by Barry. He has/had three main patrons Waddingtons (no longer manufacturing), Wentworth and Gibsons although some of his paintings have been covered by two or  three of these manufacturers.

Barry has been a railway fanatic since childhood so it is not surprising that he turned to painting pictures of the steam era. He has done so, professionally, since 1989, following 18 years as an art teacher. His paintings have a warm pictorial appeal combined with a clinical approach to detail, qualities that always capture the grandeur and nostalgia associated with the age of steam. He is a Full Member and former Deputy President of the Guild of Railway Artists and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1995.

The first pic is of a 1000-piece example from Gibsons' Heritage' series titled Heavyweights at Seaton. This jigsaw features the impressive Southern Railway 'Merchant Navy' class 'Pacifics' of Oliver Bulleid (from 1941) in both original and rebuilt (late 1950's) form.  Rebuilt locomotive No.35016, Elders Fyffes, is pictured storming through Seaton Junction with the 'Atlantic Coast Express'. Un-rebuilt locomotive (or 'Spam Can') No. 35019, French Line CGT is stationery in the adjacent platform heading an eastbound parcels train.

The second photograph depicts another Gibsons' puzzle. However, this one is from the 636-piece 'Panorama' series, titled Southern Suburbia. In the picture a Southern Railway 'Schools' class 4-4-0, No.915 Brighton, designed by Richard Maunsell is shown racing through Coulsdon North Station with an Eastbourne - London Victoria express. Travelling in the opposite direction is a Marsh/Billinton class 'H2' 4-4-2, No.2421 South Foreland, (ex London Brighton & South Coast Railway) heading a boat train. A 4-car emu (electric multiple unit) is pictured passing on an adjacent branch line.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Evening Star

Considering that this locomotive is so important in the history of steam it is rather surprising at its rarity among jigsaw puzzle subjects. To the best of my knowledge I only have one puzzle* showing Evening Star within my 400 strong collection.

Today's post, 8th July 2011, is dedicated to the last steam locomotive built in the historic UK steam era, No.92220 Evening Star. The picture shows the locomotive heading an express out of Bournemouth en route to Bath. B.R. Evening Star is one of Arrow's 500-piece puzzles from the third edition of The Age of Steam series. The backdrop of orange-red sky gives the obvious impression of sunset with the aesthetic pictorialism expected of such a setting. The over emphasized star in the sky is superfluous to requirements, however; the artist is not named

Evening Star came into service in 1960. The huge 2-10-0 locomotive, the brainchild of Robert Riddles, cost £33,500 to construct at the ex GWR, Swindon Works (compare this to the £3million to build 'Tornado'). She was retired just five years later and entered preservation at the NRM, York. Special cosmetic features included copper-capped chimney and brass fittings, typical of the works where she was built.

* The locomotive is included in the children's cut out toy/jigsaw puzzle described in the 14th December 2010 post.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Steam and the Community

The steam train and its relevance to local communities is  a story that unfolds in many jigsaw puzzles, old or new. Whether with branch lines, main lines or even today's preserved railways local communities are inextricably linked to the permanent way in a variety of ways, social, financial or political. Today's post, 2nd July 2011, comprises two pictures of jigsaws each showing a strong bond between railway and the local community.

The first picture shows a 500-piece House of Puzzles jigsaw titled Railway Children. If you have seen the film or read the book you will completely understand what is going on in Keith Stapleton's artwork. Children watching and about to wave to a steam train as it thunders by was a regular sight in steam days and is replicated today on many steam rail-tours and 'Heritage' railways. And how often do you see people waving to diesel-hauled or electric trains? Not many. The locomotive heading the express is a Great Western Railway 'Castle' class 4-6-0 example designed by Charles Collett and the children in the picture are accompanied by the family dog; the scene is entirely natural and rural.

Picture number two is slightly different, based on a train waiting in a rural station for passengers to embark. Others have left the train and a busy scene ensues with families, couples, children and the obligatory dog crossing the line and entering/exiting the station. The locomotive is one of Charles Collett's  large 2-6-2 'Prairie' tanks No.4132, built between 1935 and 1939. The superb artwork is by Kevin Walsh, a prolific artist well patronised by jigsaw manufacturers such as, in this case, Falcon Jumbo. The jigsaw is titled Departure Time and is made up of 1000 pieces.